'India is using this act to stifle the voices': UN Rights Chief calls Modi govt to defend the rights!

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed her concern and displeasure on how India has been restricting the voices and advocacy for Human rights in its territory through cutting the funding channels under the grounds of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). 

Bachelet has on Tuesday expressed her concern towards the Indian government's drive of curbing the foreign funding channels for the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the country, freezing their accounts, and arresting human rights activists and defenders. Her concern has come weeks after the Indian arm of the global human rights organization Amnesty International had halted its operations in the country after the government had frozen its account.

Michelle Bachelet had appealed to the Indian Government to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work on behalf of the many groups they represent. In her statement, she said, "India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally. But I'm concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices". 

More specifically, Bachelet had highlighted her worry on the use of the FCRA as the guise to curb the human rights defenders and the groups they represent. FCRA prohibits the receipt of foreign funds for any activities that are prejudicial to the public interest. The act was adopted in 2010 and earlier, the UN Rights Chief said that the act has been invoked over the years to justify the intrusive measures of the government from conducting official raids on NGO agencies, freezing their bank accounts, suspending or canceling their registration, and arresting the activists. 

Expressing her concern over the usage of FCRA, Bachelet said that the actions from the government based on the grounds of vaguely defined 'public interest' leave this law open to abuse and pressure the NGOs and the act has actually been used to deter or punish the NGOs that are working for the human rights. Responding to her statement that she issued on Tuesday over her concern, the Ministry of External Affairs had denied and demanded the UN Body to have a more informed view. 

Addressing the media about Bachelet's concerns, MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava has, on Tuesday, said, "We have seen some comments by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on an issue relating to the FCRA. India is a democratic polity based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary. The framing of laws is obviously a sovereign prerogative. Violations of the law cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights. A more informed view of the matter was expected of a UN Body". 


Earlier, Michelle Bachelet had appealed to the government to ensure that no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in law and policy to protect India's robust civil society. 

According to reports, the Central Government has amended the FCRA recently and as per the fresh amendment, furnishing of Aadhaar numbers by office-bearers of NGOs has become mandatory for FCRA registration and Ministry of Home Affairs has asserted that the legislation was not against any NGO and was an effort to maintain transparency.